Jon and I went to Disneyland in October...ostensibly to celebrate our wedding anniversary, but mostly to see the Nightmare Before Christmas makeover
of the Haunted Mansion, our favorite attraction at the Park, and the Electrical Parade
which I had never seen. Well, mostly we made the trip to keep me from whining about not going, but I pretended it was the other reasons.
We bought our travel package from AAA on Monday, September 10th.
For the next few weeks neither of us felt like going to Disneyland. We didn't feel much like doing anything except watching the t.v. and holding each other. But we decided, after some consideration, to go ahead with our plans...we were going to be driving instead of flying, so less worries there, and Disneyland had handled previous threats of attack reasonably well. I figured if I was gonna go out, I'd rather go out there than just about anywhere...so off we went.
Other than some security checks at the gate, and an increase of uniformed police and security officers, there were not a lot of changes at the Park. The patriotic decorations usually reserved for the Fourth of July were out, so red, white, and blue bunting flew from the lampposts, the balconies on Main Street, and the decks of the Mark Twain. Had it been the Fourth of July, I doubt I would have given them a second thought. There was also a marked increase of interest in the flag retreat ceremony in front of City Hall. I'd never even known there was a flag ceremony.
I couldn't wait to see the Electrical Parade. I love parades, in general, being the sister of a guy who had been in band most of his life. We would go to see him march in the Rodeo Parade every year, my mom and dad and I. Dad and I would also visit his high school homecoming games, standing behind the bleachers in the trees so we wouldn't have to pay to get in, to watch the floats and the bands and then go home. When he hit college we'd visit Band Day at the U of A, finally getting to hear the rest of the music that we heretofore only knew the tuba parts to thanks to his hours of practice. And one of the last father-daughter things I remember doing with my dad was watching my brother march in the Alumni Band at Homecoming, back before dad had to be on oxygen much and before my brother was in a wheelchair. And the Electrical Parade...well, it's gotta be the mother of Gen X nostalgia, right? Who doesn't know the music or recognize the floats? I remembered all the coverage it got on Sunday evenings on Wonderful World of Disney, that masterful marketing tool, and I was convinced that I was The Only Person in the World who hadn't seen it. Or at least one of the last ten. For someone who dearly loves sparkly things as I do, this was a great tragedy that begged to be put right.
As parade time drew near, Jon and I staked out a spot in California Adventure to watch. As many flaws as the new park has, I give them points for the parade route. The route in DL is down Main Street, which has wide sidewalks, so unless you stake a spot on the curb an hour in advance, you will, almost guaranteed, end up three or four rows back, at least. Even with predatory tactics you can still get sharked by a pushy Dad with a toddler on his shoulders, even though he's in the front row, and end up seeing nothing but "OshKosh" and a pink corduroy butt as you hear the parade going by.
But the route through CA has several very narrow spots, some only wide enough for a row or two. So we sat down on a bridge, resting our backs on the pilasters, and stretched our lanky legs out to the route line, and waited. Jon left for a moment and came back with some of the most amazing corndogs ever invented, and we munched away happily as the last of the daylight slipped away and the parade route filled in.
Soon all the signs that the parade was near started kicking in...the overhead announcements to find seats started coming more frequently. The Events crew, flashlights in hand, made sure everyone was well behind the line. The last vendor cart full of neon bracelets and light-up spinners trundled by. The lights dimmed. We scooched up to the edge of the street.
I heard the crowd further up the parade route cheer, and I heard the faint strains of "Baroque Hoedown" start at their time-lapse speakers, and I swear my heart jumped a little. I leaned out into the street, peering into the darkness. And just at that moment, the I heard the moog fanfare, and the synth voice start up: "Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls...
Disney proudly presents
our spectacular festival pageant
of nighttime magic and imagination
in thousands of sparkling lights
and electro-syntho-magnetic musical sounds...
and the music thundered out of the speakers over my head, and Blue Fairy appeared around the bend.
Now, I am a very emotional person, as far as nostalgia goes. I cry at pretty much everything that strikes me as poignant or beautiful. Music, especially, sets me off pretty quick. Needless to say I cry a lot at Disneyland, and I knew this trip, after September, was going to be especially bad. So seeing that gorgeous Blue Fairy, her huge skirt and wings done up in lights, made me tear up something fierce. But I choked it back...I didn't want to bawl like a freak in the middle of the parade.
The parade passed right in front of us. And if those floats and costumes look cool from down the street, they are aggressively gorgeous from a foot away and twelve, fifteen feet down. To make it even better, nearly all the characters interacted with us. The mobile ones came right up to us, like the spinning snails and turtles, who hummed a snaily electronic greeting and bobbled and then spun away. Anyone who couldn't get up close made sure to smile and wave at us. I waved back like a grinning idiot and clapped along with the crowd to the music. All the old-timers were there: the steam train and drum head with the parade logo on it, only slightly altered, with "Main Street" replaced with "Disney's", and Mickey and Minnie and Goofy heading up the crew. Alice, being bratty and British on top of a huge mushroom, with ladybugs and butterflies and a huge caterpillar with jillions of blinking lights making up his trotting legs. Cinderella in a glimmering pumpkin coach, and Prince Charming, and their courtiers dancing under a glowing canopy next to Big Ben. Peter Pan and Hook fighting on a dazzling pirate ship, Tink watching from the crow's nest, with Smee paddling furiously behind. Dumbo and his circus train and the huge calliope belching steam into the crowd. Snow White and the dwarves and mining cars full of glowing jewels. Pete riding high atop the neck of his dragon, Elliot. Then the last float went by, a big patriotic number with flags and fireworks and an enormous eagle, with "To Honor America" written on it, surrounded by fetching dancers in little colonial outfits, white stockings and breeches and tricorn hats, Rockette-style, all in red and white and blue and gold. I watched it go by, watched it go down the street and heard the music fade out and the lights come up.
And I looked at Jon and just lost it. Deep, shuddering sobs, right there in California Adventure. Poor Jon could only hold me and tell me it would be all right. He kept asking me, "What's wrong, Angel?" My first instinct was to give my stock answer when I feel that way, and I told him, "I miss my dad." But that wasn't quite it. And as I stood there, sobbing in his strong arms, the lights of the rides reflected in the lagoon behind us, with the crowd going their merry way without giving us a second glance, I realized what it was.
The parade, of course, brought back a lot of memories from my childhood. Sitting in front of the television in our living room on Sunday, Dad lying beside me on the carpet. I could smell the pot roast we'd had for dinner and could see how Dad would lay out his pipe and his tobacco pouch and his tamper, just so, in front of him there on the floor. It reminded me of the Bicentennial, which I remember pretty well for having been six. I remembered watching Carter's inaugural parade on television with my mom, trying to see which little marching speck was my brother. I remember watching the fireworks on the Fourth with my dad. I remembered what life was like twenty-five years ago.
And then suddenly, I remembered what life was like not yet two months before. And what had happened.
I felt like I had grown up twice.
The next night, we watched the parade again. Jon disappeared just before it started and came back with a light-up medallion of my very own, that blinks "Disney's -- Electrical -- Parade" over and over, and I put it around my neck and wore it the rest of the night. That night, Pete stopped right in front of us and made that whole huge dragon disappear with an electronic snort. And when the Honor America float passed, we got up and followed it, right behind the eagle, hand in hand, all the way to the end.